TCA: Pop Topper Schwartz Says Network ‘Elasticity’ Brings Opportunity

Complete Coverage: TCA Summer 2016

Beverly Hills, Calif. — Brad Schwartz, president of the CBS-Lionsgate-backed Pop, said the young network will have four originals on air by mid-2017 and will aim to leverage the “elasticity” of its pop-culture focus to keep growing.

Wolf Creek, an intense horror series set in the Australian outback and imported from Australian TV, is joining the Pop lineup in October as the net’s first scripted drama. Based on a cult and arthouse hit of the same name, which has spawned sequels and wowed horror fans with its Texas Chainsaw Massacre-like screw-tightening, the series takes Pop in a decidedly new direction. The network’s early slate featured original scripted comedy Schitt’s Creek and unscripted fare like Rock This Boat, set on a cruise featuring New Kids on the Block.

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During a 10-minute executive session, Schwartz contended that Wolf Creek strategically fits because of the “elasticity” of Pop’s brand since it relaunched under the current name in early 2015. “What’s amazing about being a brand that focuses on fandom and has an excited, optimistic view of things is that you can really be fans of a lot of different things and champion different things. … There are unbelievable hardcore fans of the [horror] genre.”

Schwartz compared the network to NBC late-night host Jimmy Fallon, who interviews a wide range of guests but retains a consistency of tone and approach.

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The Fallon reference was à propos given the other shows Pop touted at TCA: Nightcap, produced by co-owner Lionsgate, about a late-night talk show booker; and the newly announced Joey Mac Project. The latter, produced by CBS with Donnie Wahlberg and Jenny McCarthy also aboard as producers, features New Kids on the Block singer Joey Macintyre playing himself as the host of a fictional late-night show.

Clips of Nightcap show a parade of celebrity cameos from the likes of Paul Rudd, Gwyneth Paltrow, Denis Leary, Michael J. Fox, Mariska Hargitay and Mark Cuban and a single-camera, Larry Sanders-ish feel.

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Schwartz’s session did not offer a wealth of data points but he threw out one stat as evidence that things are on the right track.

“This past quarter, we actually beat Oxygen in primetime,” Schwartz said. “Just 18 months into this thing, we’re closing the competitive gap with far more established networks.”